Feeds

Dell does factory fresh virus infections?

Something new to be frightened about!

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Top three mobile application threats

How the hell does a virus-infected set of motherboards find their way into the supply chain of a major system vendor? The vendor delivering the bad boards was Dell, and they’re blaming a slipshod supplier and ‘human error’. Yeah – human error. You can read all about it here and here.

The virus in question was a variant of an easily disinfected worm that was festering in the flash memory on the boards. Dell has removed all of the motherboards from their supply chain and rushed replacements to affected customers. That’s good, but it doesn’t make the fact that this happened in the first place any less deplorable.

To me, this situation brings up a range of disturbing scenarios. First, it proves that malware and other nasty, hidden code can be embedded in factory-fresh products and delivered to unsuspecting customers. This is akin to finding a pile of steaming dog crap when you unwrap your Quarter Pounder. Actually, it’s worse than that – the dog pile is pretty easy to detect in most (but not all) takeout dishes and, while certainly disturbing, you probably won’t end up eating it. A virus or Trojan is different.

It’s fortunate that the virus used was easy to detect. What concerns me is that there are vastly more insidious things that can be done along these lines. Why couldn’t some super-villain plant code in a new system that would lie low until a certain set of conditions are met?

For example: it’s dormant until a particular USB key is inserted into the machine; then it comes to life and opens up all sorts of back doors to the system. This same super-villain would have a low-level minion physically inside the data center with instructions to put the key into server x, wait a few minutes, and then pull the key out. Then the minion would casually walk out the door with gigabytes of confidential data and a big, big smirk.

Admittedly, this wouldn’t be easy to pull off. The bad guy would have to make sure that a particular component lands in the right data center, and that he has an insider in position to execute the plan. (The bad guy or bad gal, that is; I want to be fair, and women can be very evil in their own right.)

But how hard would it be if you had a lot of money behind you – or the resources of an entire government (even a small one)? The targets of these types of schemes won’t be confined to top-secret defense labs; there are plenty of juicy databases in commercial and industrial companies.

One of the people I most respect in the industry gave me the following example of just how harmful these types of exploits could prove to be. Those who know their Star Wars history will recall that then-Chancellor Palpatine used a similar technique to become Emperor. His infamous Order 66 was implanted into the clone army and, at the right moment, they slaughtered their Jedi leaders. Blood flowed red and deep that day, and it became known as The Great Jedi Purge.

(I would hyperlink all of these little factoids, but I can’t stand even to copy and paste the wiki links to this crap. As for my pal, he’s not a Star Wars geek – but he is the father of two boys who watched the movies enough to wear out the DVDs, so he picked up the story via osmosis.)

In conclusion: we need to be concerned about the safety of high tech supply chains and wary of vendors. And ambitious chancellors… and clone programming too, I guess. As for me, I’m off to see if I can get Norton to run on our new microwave.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Kingston DataTraveler MicroDuo: Turn your phone into a 72GB beast
USB-usiness in the front, micro-USB party in the back
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed
Nadella's database sqares the circle of cheap memory vs speed
BOFH: Oh DO tell us what you think. *CLICK*
$%%&amp Oh dear, we've been cut *CLICK* Well hello *CLICK* You're breaking up...
Just what could be inside Dropbox's new 'Home For Life'?
Biz apps, messaging, photos, email, more storage – sorry, did you think there would be cake?
AMD's 'Seattle' 64-bit ARM server chips now sampling, set to launch in late 2014
But they won't appear in SeaMicro Fabric Compute Systems anytime soon
Amazon reveals its Google-killing 'R3' server instances
A mega-memory instance that never forgets
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.